Notitia’s Approach to PandemicTech

How the PandemicTech-sponsored Health Meets Tech Hackathon helped launch the growth of a Nigerian digital health startup

by Aniegbe Joel

Aniegbe Joel pitching for his team at the Health Meets Tech Nigeria infectious disease hackathon in Abuja, Nigeria, in May 2018

Insights from healthcare data are the wheels of healthcare delivery and activity around the world. However, in developing economies and emerging markets there are numerous challenges that make access and utilization of healthcare data possible. Most prominent are factors such as poor record keeping, missing or incomplete paper documentation, poor penetration of electronic medical records (EMR), erratic electric power supply to sustain EMR, the cost-intensive nature of physical records digitization and extremely low doctor-to-patient ratios which translates to high workloads and ultra-short consultation times are issues faced regularly by doctors in low-middle income countries.

There are reasons why Africa lives with a greater portion of the global non-communicable & communicable disease burden. Some of these reasons include lack of information on appropriate drugs and disease self-management or information on disease-modifying lifestyles, all of which are a click away in developed countries. The challenge of information access and utilization cuts across all levels and displays itself in the inability of our health institutions to keep track of disease patterns in order to make predictions, or accumulate enough data to run valid researches that could provide insight into effective strategies in patient management as well inform proper allocation of financial resources. Factors such as poor record keeping, over dependence on paper based recording system, missing or incomplete paper documentation, poor penetration of electronic medical records (EMR), erratic electric power supply to sustain EMR, the cost-intensive nature of physical records digitization and extremely low doctor-to-patient ratios which translates to high workloads and ultra-short consultation times are issues faced regularly by doctors in low-middle income countries like Nigeria.

Every aspect of the health record system is still largely paper based, ranging from admission registries, and ward disease registries to the actual patient folders. There is also a wide-spread gross lack of political will to establish more efficient means of health recording, the back bone to this is a fear of electronic system use stemming from a wide spread misconception & misunderstanding of digital health technologies. The epileptic internet infrastructure and cost intensive nature of adopting conventional electronic health record software compounds the problem.

We formed our company, Notitia, around a solution named BlueCircle — an AI powered analytics platform for health database & patient management. It works on the principle of Content Management Software to allow users create database appropriate for the desired electronic health data capture. The created dashboard/database is modifiable over web & mobile (working offline with synchronization features).

Notita founder Aniegbe Joel (3rd from right) representing the company at Nigeria’s 2019 National Digital Health Conference

This potential eliminates the over reliance on paper system of recording in an affordable manner and also leveraging on the intelligence of the system, empowers weak healthcare systems in developing countries with powerful analytics foresight information for epidemiological forecast and precision medicine, all ultimately improving the well-being of the community.

There is significant opportunity and potential in establishing this service in emerging economies around the world with similar challenges. Because of the large market opportunity and its significance in the west-African region, Nigeria is our initial target for the solution. Our plan is to eventually expand the access to our software regionally and then globally.

Like Mark Zuckerberg said, “Ideas don’t come out fully formed, they become clearer as you work on them…” with my addition to the quote, “..as you work on them in the context of the problem.” We started off with several concepts before reaching our current startup goal definition. The earliest of such was an idea to deploy fully offline Apps with laid out algorithms to empower primary health care workers better diagnose illnesses (mainly infectious), keep records and refer cases — a solution named Symptomz. This was birthed at the Health Meets Tech Hackathon in May 2018 in Abuja, organized by EpiAfric in partnership with PandemicTech, Tech Ranch Austin, Ventures Platform, and numerous additional local and international partners.

Although we didn’t win the hackathon with our idea, we however were able to gain an efficient mentor. Dr. Andrew Nerlinger is the MD of Endura Ventures and the Co-Founder of the PandemicTech initiative. PandemicTech seeks to find innovative solutions to combating the rise of pandemic illnesses. They were one of the official partners to EpiAfric in organizing and sponsoring the Health Meets Tech Hackathon. We have maintained strong correspondence with the Pandemic Tech initiative through Dr. Andrew, and we have received a development grant from PandemicTech to offset our online cloud service costs for 6 month duration as we seek to develop our digital health registry for many clinical situations, including infectious disease..

Altogether, the alliance of our visions between Notitia and PandemicTech is a formidable one, and the odds of our success greatly increased because of it.

About the Author: Aniegbe Joel is a medical student at the University of Nigeria and is the founder of Notitia, a Nigerian digital health startup company located in Enugu State, Nigeria. He was a participant in the Health Meets Tech Hackathon, and Notitia was selected as a quarter-finalist at the international Merck X-innovation health tech hackathon.

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PandemicTech (Austin, Texas, USA) is a virtual technology incubator confronting pandemic infectious disease threats

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PandemicTech (Austin, Texas, USA) is a virtual technology incubator confronting pandemic infectious disease threats

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